GUEST ROOM | Cornell, COVID and Climate Change; Take the Bus.

When asked about the plan for Cornell’s reopening during an interview with Scot Vanderpool, General Manager of Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit, I shrugged and gave him the same answer that Cornell students have had to repeat to family members and friends: “We still don’t know.” It is daunting for students to think about this semester’s empty lecture halls and the absence of the usual morning hustle to get to class.  However, for TCAT, a business whose financial stability relies on students using bus transportation to and from class, will also suffer from this restructured semester. Public transportation throughout New York State has undoubtedly been impacted by COVID-19. Even with extreme safety precautions in place and free bus fares in some areas (such as Tompkins County), public transit ridership in major cities has gone down by 50 to 90 percent since the pandemic started. However, even before the pandemic, public transportation only accounted for 8 percent of passenger-miles in the U.S. So, why should we care about taking public transportation now, in a time when people are concerned with the spread of COVID-19? The answer is simple: Sustainability and equitability.